He’s moving on up, to the welterweight division. Former UFC Lightweight Champion “Smooth” Benson Henderson is finally set to make his debut in the UFC’s 170-pound division, and he will be doing so on very short notice. Requesting a quick return to action following a controversial split decision loss to Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 59 last month, Henderson originally filled in for Bobby Green as an injury replacement against Jorge Masvidal at April 4th’s UFC Fight Night 64 in Virginia. The injury bug continued to strike, and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson was forced out of his UFC Fight Night 60 main event bout against Brandon Thatch with a rib injury. Desperate for a short notice replacement for Thompson who would make sense in a main event slot, the UFC turned to company man Henderson, who according to UFC President Dana White, had been asking for a fight at 170-pounds. Pulling him from the Masvidal bout and pitting him against the undefeated Thatch in Thatch’s home state of Colorado on short notice spells trouble for “Bendo” and will undoubtedly be one of the biggest challenges of his professional mixed martial arts career. If he manages to get his hand raised at the end of this fight, no one will question that he belongs in the welterweight division. However, that is a big if, as Thatch is a very difficult test for anybody making their 170-pound debut. He is a very large welterweight and presents threats in every department. The booking of this bout left many scratching their heads, including myself. Especially because Henderson seemed to have made it clear following the Cerrone bout that he intended to stay at 155-pounds. A win over “Bendo” won’t mean too much for Thatch’s stock, but it will keep him relevant in the division and make fight fans look forward to his next outing. If he manages to run through Henderson like he has done with previous opponents, it is likely that the former 155-pound champ will return to the lightweight division. The party is set for Colorado, but Masvidal is still left without an opponent for UFC Fight Night 64. Some have suggested Al Iaquinta to replace him following his second round TKO over Joe Lauzon at UFC 183, but I would personally prefer to see Myles Jury fill that slot. Despite Masvidal being on a three fight winning streak and Jury coming off the first official loss of his career, I think Jury will be Masvidal’s biggest challenge since his loss to Rustam Khabilov. A win over Jury would move the Strikeforce veteran up the UFC’s 155-pound rankings, as Jury is currently ranked higher than him. For Jury, a win over Masvidal would be an ideal way him to return to the win column and keep his position in the rankings. Update: Masvidal has taken to Twitter and asked Donald Cerrone to step in, and Cerrone has no doubt accepted. However, should he take that fight, it would likely mean his UFC 187 bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov in May would be off. Now it’s up to Dana White and UFC matchmakers to make a decision.
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